Disease forces felling of famous Coole Park trees
A line of Monterey cypress trees at Coole Park are to be felled next week for safety reasons following a recent inspection which showed they were diseased.
Many who enjoy walking in Coole Park will be familiar with the trees which provide a shaded walk and were planted in the early thirties.
The decision to fell the trees came after tree surgeons revealed that the trees were in an unsafe condition, that a fungal infection had been identified and that some of them had been damaged by storms earlier this year.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht has confirmed this decision and work on the felling will start on September 1.
Dr Enda Mooney, from the NPWS said: ‘Regular visitors to Coole Park will be familiar with the line of mature Monterey cypress trees that runs along the path that connects the site of Coole House to Coole turlough’.
“The existing line of trees forms a shaded, arched walkway for visitors to the site and many people will closely associate these trees with the Nature Reserve. News that they must be felled will come as a disappointment, therefore, to locals and visitors. However, the NPWS cannot ignore the safety concerns identified by the tree surgeons who recently inspected the trees.
“The trees were also left damaged by the severe storms of last spring. In the interest of public safety, we must regrettably proceed with felling the trees.”
In order to ensure the safety of the general public, there will be some restrictions on access to this section of Coole/Garryland Nature Reserve while the trees are being removed.
These will include restrictions to access to the outside toilets at Coole, and the path from the former site of Coole House to the Coole River. It is hoped that other trails will remain open. Visitors will be able to make use of the other toilets in the nature reserve, located in the visitor centre. The work is expected to take about one week to complete.
Coole Park, the former home of Lady Gregory and centre of the Irish literary revival and now a nature reserve, is a popular visitor attraction for both locals and tourists.
The Monterey trees were planted sometime after 1932 by the Forest Service, after the Coole estate was taken into State ownership from the Gregory family.
Lady Gregory’s two grand-daughters who lived with her at Coole, recalled that when they lived there, a wire fence existed along the boundary that is now occupied by the trees.
A tree nursery was established, at the back of Coole house around that time. It is likely that the cypress trees were planted as a shelter belt for the nursery.
Free parking in County Galway towns is not a runner
A proposal to grant parking permits to businesses would prove a disaster for trade in County Galway towns, it was claimed this week.
Councillor Shane Curley proposed giving a limited number of parking permits to business owners in towns and villages where paid parking exists at this month’s Loughrea Municipal District meeting.
He said business owners provide employment, pay commercial rates as well as taxes and deserved a break.
Galway County Council said it was against the proposal as it would mean less parking availability for customers spending money – and less money for the Council due to the impact on parking fees.
It would also have an impact on active travel as it may discourage people from walking or cycling to town centres if they could avail of free parking.
Cllr Joe Byrne (FG) said he was opposed to the move as one of the biggest complaints when the Council brought in free parking in December to encourage Christmas shoppers was that workers were taking parking prime spaces all day.
That was the reason that proposal change to make parking free from 11am so that commuters would park elsewhere.
Cllr Jimmy McClearn said Roscommon town had free parking and it was now very difficult to get parking on the town’s main street.
He told the meeting that it was an example of a well-intentioned proposal having unforeseen consequences.
“Do you make free parking available to all people who work in a shop? Do you have it at a particular location? If you did it, you have to not do it on the main street.”
Cllr Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher said the proposal would “absolutely choke our town”, which was one of the locations in the county currently thriving.
“There are car spaces in Loughrea – there are car parks in Barrack Street, Corry’s, businesses were against free parking before as they couldn’t get customers in.”
Engineer Gerard Haugh said there was a proposal to create another car park on the southern side of the town.
Parking fees were subject to bylaws and could not be adjusted at municipal district level, Cllr Byrne pointed out. Cllr Curley said he would submit the proposal to a full meeting of Galway County Council.
In relation to a second proposal by Cllr Curley to erect trial speed bumps at three locations in the town frequented by hundreds of school children, Mr Haugh said there was no funding available for temporary measures in advance of a traffic management plan currently being created for Loughrea.
No other councillor supported the motion.
Galway woman is spared jail after fraud conviction
A Galway woman, who used false documents to secure a €1.65m bank loan in an “act of desperation”, has avoided a prison sentence.
At Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week, Judge Brian O’Callaghan imposed a suspended 18-month sentence on 53-year-old Miriam Cahill.
After hearing evidence, Judge O’Callaghan said: “It is the court’s view that the last place this lady needs to be is in prison.”
Judge O’Callaghan said the offending transaction occurred between August and December 2008 “during an interesting time in this country’s history”.
Cahill, with an address at 59 Lower Salthill, pleaded guilty last year to an offence contrary to Cection 7 of the Criminal Justice Theft and Fraud Offences Act.
The charge stated Cahill dishonestly by deception on a date unknown between August 1 and December 31, 2008 – with the intention of making a gain for herself or another or causing a loss to another – obtained by deception from a member of staff at ACC bank, a loan of €1.65 million, secured by a mortgage, by providing false and fraudulent documentation regarding the loan application.
The false documentation in question was a purported P60 from 2007 in her name, a purported letter from the Kingfisher Club in her name and a purported letter from DBAS Accountancy Services, Ennis Road, Gort, in her name.
Prosecuting counsel, Geri Silke BL, told the court the accused secured the loan on the basis of incorrect income submitted to ACC bank.
Funds totalling €1.65m were transferred to an account and the loan and not been fully repaid, the court heard
A detective garda agreed with counsel that the accused had not come to garda attention prior to or since the offence.
In sentencing, Judge O’Callaghan said the accused pleaded guilty to a “most serious offence”.
He said it would be easy to characterise cases such as this as “to hell with the banks, they don’t matter”. He continued: “They do and we need them.”
He said trust was at the core of the case.
“Sadly in this case trust broke down at the very start of the relationship.”
Judge O’Callaghan said the defendant found herself under financial pressure and required additional equity to repay debts to builders for work carried out on her property in Salthill.
He said the court was satisfied there was “no self gain personally involved in this transaction” and the court accepted the loan was used for the purpose in which it was obtained and there was “no personal benefit or private use”.
The judge was satisfied the accused was under pressure to repay third parties – who themselves were under pressure from other parties – given the state of the economy at the time.
“People were trying to get paid. People were going to the wall,” he added.
The judge said he had the benefit of a probation report in which Cahill describes her actions as an “act of desperation”.
He said the court was satisfied from the report that Cahill knew what she was doing was “wrong and dishonest”.
The probation services said the accused was at a low risk of re-offending.
In mitigation, defence barrister Michael O’Connor SC, said at the time of the offence, Cahill had a performing €1.4m loan with KBC bank but that “builders were knocking on the door” to be paid for work done at the Salthill property.
Counsel said his client intended to put apartments into the property but ran into the “perfect storm” of the 2008 economic collapse.
He said his client came from a small community and had suffered “considerable shame and embarrassment”.
“She accepts it is her fault entirely and it is an aberration for her and her family,” he added.
Judge O’Callaghan noted that an aggravating factor in the case was the “total breach of trust and dishonestly involved”.
However he also noted Cahill had been waiting five years to learn her fate “which in itself is a form of sentence”.
Taking all circumstances into account, including care which Cahill provides to her daughter, Judge O’Callaghan imposed a fully-suspended 18-month sentence.
Irish Water to focus on Gort supply issues
Irish Water chiefs have committed to a renewed focus on Gort as recurring problems continue to blight the town’s water services.
Following a meeting with local representatives, Deputy Ciarán Cannon (FG) and Cllr Joe Byrne (FG), the public water body has sought to reassure residents that works have, and will continue to be carried out to avoid future supply interruptions and bad smells caused by wastewater leaks.
Deputy Cannon said while a new treated-water storage reservoir was completed in 2022, Gort’s water supply was once again brought to its knees in the run up to Christmas as sub-zero conditions caused the system to malfunction.
In a letter to Deputy Cannon and Cllr Byrne, Irish Water (or Uisce Éireann as it has been rebranded) states that a “heat tracing system” has been installed to protect pipework and instrumentation from freezing conditions.
115 metres of water mains are to be replaced on Crowe Street this year and ground water investigations are ongoing to seek out additional supply.
“While this work is ongoing,” said Deputy Cannon, “we have been assured that work is already underway at the Gort Water Treatment Plant to ensure the plant can meet all drinking water quality standards consistently, and further reduce the risk of water supply interruptions.”
Deputy Cannon said in their meeting with Irish Water Engineers and their Chief Operations Officer, he and Cllr Byrne highlighted the serious issues that have arisen over the past year.
“We made it very clear that these failures in service were not acceptable and that we as public representatives for this town needed to be able to reassure people that their concerns were being taken seriously.
“The reply we have received indicates that our concerns have been taken on board, to a certain extent, but we intend to keep a close eye on developments over the coming months,” said Deputy Cannon.
This issue of recurring sewer odours in the town, particularly at Church Street, was one of the main issues addressed in the meeting, said Deputy Cannon, and Irish Water confirmed that remedial works to repair four breaks in the sewer had been carried out adjacent to Church Street, while CCTV surveying of the wastewater pipe network continued.
A full rehabilitation of 130 metres of sewer piping at George’s Street is also set to take place.
Cllr Byrne said this was their first opportunity to meet with senior management of Irish Water to address these issues.
“We made it quite clear that the kind of failures experienced recently in Gort would not be tolerated in the future. The work ongoing right now in terms of both water and wastewater infrastructure should lead to improvements.
“In the long term, if the town’s wastewater treatment system is to perform satisfactorily, we need to see better venting of odours, and better management of stormwater. We will continue to make the case for these improvements,” said Cllr Byrne.
Poor communications with public representatives and local residents when issues arose was a constant problem, added Deputy Cannon.
“We need to be notified of why issues have arisen, what is being done to resolve them and what is being done to ensure that they do not happen again.
“Joe and I will be insisting on open and effective lines of communication with Irish Water engineers and we will be reverting to Irish Water with a request that these communication protocols are put in place immediately,” said the Fine Gael TD.